Trying Something New: Why Evolve is a Tough Sell

Can its style of multiplayer work in 2015?

James Kozanitisby James Kozanitis

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There is a formula for success in modern multiplayer games; you mix together pick-up-and-go gameplay with multiple game modes and an uncomplicated campaign. With that, you’ve got the makings of a successful title.

When a game deviates from the proven formula, things are much more risky. 

Developer Turtle Rock Studios is putting itself on a much more difficult path with its upcoming title Evolve. It seeks to make Evolve the first game to succeed solely on the shoulders of asymmetric multiplayer. There is no campaign, and there is no standard gameplay option, just 4v1 Hunters vs Monster.

Related: Evolve Goes Gold, Releases Intro Cinematic Trailer

Put simply, Evolve is a multiplayer game where each set of players have different goals and different ways to achieve these goals. This separates it from most modern multiplayer games such as Call of Duty where each side is set on the same course, and the experience is standardized.

The big question is, can it succeed without following recent trends?

Road Blocks to Success

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What Turtle Rock Studios is doing with Evolve has never been done before. Sure, a few games have tried out this style of multiplayer, but none have centered their entire game around it. Batman: Arkham Origins and Watch Dogs are two recent examples, and the upcoming Dying Light will also try out an asymmetric feature with its “Be the Zombie” mode. It’s also important to note that the Arkham series dropped multiplayer like a hot potato, while Watch Dogs didn’t stay in the public eye for very long.

The closest a game has come to attempting what Evolve is bringing to the table is Aliens vs. Predator. They did throw in a half-assed campaign, so it’s not quite the same, but the concept is basically there. So how did that title do? Not well. Of course the poor production value and bugs were the main complaints, but balance between character types was also suspect.

Even the basic task of securing and insuring a thriving multiplayer audience is difficult enough. Titanfall, for instance, was well-reviewed and had fun, simple multiplayer, but is nowhere near as popular as it was in the first few months after launching.

What Evolve Has Going For It

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A game I forgot to mention (in a totally not-at-all contrived way) that included asymmetric multiplayer was Left 4 Dead, which was also developed by Turtle Rock Studios. Left 4 Dead‘s multiplayer had a few game modes that pit players against each other in different roles and with different goals. These modes were well-received and popular, in part due to the level of balance Turtle Rock Achieved between the humans and infected types. This can certainly help Evolve avoid the pitfalls of Aliens vs. Predator.

In addition, the game itself is undoubtedly unique in a time where many games are predictable. With four different classes of “Hunters” and three monsters at launch (four, if you pre-order), Evolve is already showing the makings of a beautifully intricate multiplayer. The monsters evolve (see what they did there?) throughout the game, changing their tasks at each stage.

There also isn’t any competition for this style of game. Titanfall‘s downfall may have been that it encroached too much on the territory already held firmly by games like Call of Duty and Battlefield. Evolve will be all alone in the asymmetric multiplayer monster hunter genre.

The Ultimate Question

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The question Evolve will need to answer is simple: six months after its February release, will anyone still be playing it? If beta was an indication, it’s a taxing game that requires a ton of effort from both sides; the Monster has to constantly be on its toes, while Hunters must communicate or end up running around unsuccessfully while the Monster levels up.

It certainly seems to be the kind of game where hardcore players get a lot out of it, but casuals experience endless frustration. It’s a game built for competition, and in a day and age where many consumers want instant entertainment, it’s a tough sell. It’ll have to pull in the hardcore types, and retain their interest enough to grow a community interested in leveling up, competing, and streaming for the world to see what Evolve is like when played at a high level.

Related: Evolve Hands-On Preview

Regardless of the answer, you have to admire the ambition of Turtle Rock Studios. Evolve will not simply be another multiplayer shooter. Turtle Rock Studios has chosen quite possibly the most difficult path to success in the gaming market today. Evolve will be a test case for any future asymmetric multiplayer game, much like the recently announced Friday the 13th game; if this doesn’t succeed, I doubt any game in the same vein can.